Corporate Responsibility: It Starts With Me

The other day I purchased a bag of sugar for baking. To be honest, I should have waited on the decision to buy, but it was on my list and when I went on a Target run I bought it. I had been toying with the idea of giving up sugar for a while though, and so about a week after my purchase I decided to return the unopened sugar to Target when I went to pick up a few other items. 


I had no preconceived notions about my exchange, I was simply returning an unopened pantry item and getting my few dollars back.

I figured it would go back on the shelf. While the cashier was scanning my item she muttered something about the item going “right into the landfill.” I was totally taken aback. What? A sealed non-perishable item? Why? I was totally turned off. I reached out to Target customer care to confirm this. After visiting the website and reading through Target’s song and dance about corporate responsibility and it’s environmental mission I typed up a quick message, after all that lady had to be exaggerating. 


Nope. Tish or whatever her name is (isn’t relevant) confirmed my fears. Target throws away allreturned food items. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I mean, come on, I am certified in Food Safety, I get that certain things just aren’t safe to be consumed after a certain period of time, or after they’ve reached a certain temperature. I certainly wouldn’t want to purchase an item that appeared to have been tampered with or was even previously opened. I understand the risks there. But a sealed bag of sugar? Really? I tried to get contact information, or at least be directed to someone on the corporate responsibility team but was shut down. Apparently, the buck stops with Target guest relations when it comes to inquiries of this type. 


I admit I let my emotions get the better of me.

I fired off a quick, biting post about this experience and posted it online. I got a variety of responses. Some people agreed with me. Some sided with Target, saying that there are horrible people in this world who do weird things to food with the intent to harm others. It’s a liability thing. Some asked why I didn’t just donate the sugar myself. Fair points, all of them.


Ultimately, I decided to remove my posting. It was immature and hot headed of me to react so quickly, but I strive daily to be an environmentally conscious consumer and citizen. I was offended and outraged that I was unwittingly participating in such massive and pointless waste.


Yes, I suppose I could have donated the sugar.

But I wanted my money back. If I was in a position to be donating that item, I would have. I donate clothing and canned goods all the time. And I also get the liability part of the equation. I understand that a company as large as Target could be subject to outrageous lawsuits over someone either intentionally or mistakenly causing harm. I get that there are indeed horrible people in this world and I would never want to compromise my family’s safety. I hate that this point is even a fair one to bring up, because it goes to show the fear that we live with as a society. We can no longer return a sealed non-perishable item without it going directly to waste because there are awful ideas in awful people’s minds. 


The reason I decided to cool my jets and back off my tirade was because eventually I realized that I was the one responsible for my own outrage.

Though completely unintentional, my thoughtless purchase was wasteful from the start. I realized that although Target can put on a big show about being environmentally friendly and then just throw perfectly good food out, liabilities aside, corporate responsibility starts with me, the individual, the consumer. 


I shouldn’t have made the purchase in the first place.

I was on the fence about buying the sugar because my goal is to drastically cut the refined sugar out of my family’s diets. Although I may put on my own “song and dance” about being intentional and making conscious choices, I failed to walk my own talk. I purchased something I wasn’t 100% sure I needed or wanted. And I decided to return it. And although the cashier’s words were a little rude and shocking, they served the purpose they were intended (or unintended) to. I don’t want to contribute to perfectly good products ending up in a landfill. I don’t want to be part of the problem. 


At the end of the day I think Target’s policy is wrong. But that isn't the point.

I do believe that Target makes enough profit every single day to be able to better address this wastefulness. Maybe if donating totally sealed, non-perishable items isn’t acceptable, they could donate money to local food banks? (Maybe they already do.) It doesn’t matter what I think about Target’s policy. It matters what my own policy is.


Going forward my policy is to not be a contributor to the waste.

From now on I will make damn sure that I fully intend to use the products I buy. I will strive to be a more conscious consumer and avoid bringing items back that I had no business purchasing in the first place. If Target wants to throw perfectly good food in the landfill, that will be on them. I will no longer be a contributor to the problem. From now on, I will take individual responsibility for my environmental impact, and stop relying, unwittingly, on corporations to do it for me. 

What do you think about this? Did I have any right in getting angry in the first place? What would you have done if you were in my shoes? Has this post changed your mind about your own "corporate responsibility?" Please share your thoughts in the comments below!